The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLI-B7
21 Jun 2016
 | 21 Jun 2016


F. Pirotti, F. Sunar, and M. Piragnolo

Keywords: Machine learning, Sentinel-2, Remote sensing, Neural nets, Agriculture, Land cover, Classification

Abstract. Thanks to mainly ESA and USGS, a large bulk of free images of the Earth is readily available nowadays. One of the main goals of remote sensing is to label images according to a set of semantic categories, i.e. image classification. This is a very challenging issue since land cover of a specific class may present a large spatial and spectral variability and objects may appear at different scales and orientations.

In this study, we report the results of benchmarking 9 machine learning algorithms tested for accuracy and speed in training and classification of land-cover classes in a Sentinel-2 dataset. The following machine learning methods (MLM) have been tested: linear discriminant analysis, k-nearest neighbour, random forests, support vector machines, multi layered perceptron, multi layered perceptron ensemble, ctree, boosting, logarithmic regression. The validation is carried out using a control dataset which consists of an independent classification in 11 land-cover classes of an area about 60 km2, obtained by manual visual interpretation of high resolution images (20 cm ground sampling distance) by experts. In this study five out of the eleven classes are used since the others have too few samples (pixels) for testing and validating subsets. The classes used are the following: (i) urban (ii) sowable areas (iii) water (iv) tree plantations (v) grasslands.

Validation is carried out using three different approaches: (i) using pixels from the training dataset (train), (ii) using pixels from the training dataset and applying cross-validation with the k-fold method (kfold) and (iii) using all pixels from the control dataset. Five accuracy indices are calculated for the comparison between the values predicted with each model and control values over three sets of data: the training dataset (train), the whole control dataset (full) and with k-fold cross-validation (kfold) with ten folds. Results from validation of predictions of the whole dataset (full) show the random forests method with the highest values; kappa index ranging from 0.55 to 0.42 respectively with the most and least number pixels for training. The two neural networks (multi layered perceptron and its ensemble) and the support vector machines - with default radial basis function kernel - methods follow closely with comparable performance.